Anyway Project – Update 1

Sharon December 13th, 2010

Just a note: Eric stepped on the overpriced device that allows us to have a slow and primitive but still wireless connection out here in middle-of-nowhere-land this morning. It is still working, miraculously (it doesn’t look like it should be working), but I expect to lose internet access basically at any moment. So if this blog disappears, it isn’t that I don’t care, it is that my husband is a klutz. Since I’m a much bigger klutz, and have broken even more important things over the years, I can’t really whine about it. But just FYI, I’m not sure how much internet access I’ll have until replacement device is procured.

The larger idea of the Anyway Project is to make our lives work more smoothly. Most of us stand with feet in several worlds – our domestic and professional ones, our adaptations to a world with less and our day to day life in a world with too much (in some cases). Making the intersections between these spaces functional, bringing the edges together and connecting them smoothly is the center of my project, and in that regard, I feel like the last month has been a slow beginning. I spent a lot of the last month wrapping up chaos already in progress, but now I am hopeful that the winter will allow some sustained progress.

The six weeks between late October and mid-December are hectic ones – I travelled twice, once by myself, once as a family, and soloed with the farm while Eric and the boys went to visit Grandma. We had three birthdays complete with visting family, parties, etc… Halloween, Thanksgiving and Chanukah, hosted more than 20 guests for stays varying from 1 day to a full week, I wound up my fall teaching and Eric hit the end of his term, with all the grading and etc… Starting the project November 1 was probably doomed to msotly being a wrap up, but I came in with ambitions, some of which were even accomplished.

My overarching goals are these:

1. Use what we have better. I find that often we’re so focused on the next project that we don’t necessarily get a firm grip on the current one. There are a host of small things awaiting my time and attention that would simply make life a lot happier if they got that time.

2. Make use more adaptable to the way our present crisis is actually occurring – we have reason to worry about Eric losing his job or being furloughed, and I don’t want to have to worry about it, so we need to cut our expenses. I need to bring the farm back into profitability and find a better balance between writing and agriculture, one that serves our household optimally, since there are only so many hours in the day.

3. Make the pace of our life a bit more relaxing. I’m about to go on a three-day-per-week writing schedule so I can concentrate on other things, and am taking a couple of months off from teaching.

4. Spend more time directly with people – both local folks and in-person teaching. I love the connections I get to make with people I would never have met but for the internet, but I feel like that comes at the cost, sometimes, of time spent with the people who are nearby! I’d like to do more of my teaching here, as well.

So how are we doing on this? Well, as I said, November was a bit hectic, so I didn’t complete everything I’d like to do. I’ll post both my November results and my plans for December here:

Domestic Infrastructure:

November: I got the food storage moved out of the closet and am almost finished setting it up in the guest room. It doesn’t look too bad, either. I didn’t get to the office, and the firewood is not all stacked, so that’s only 1 out of 3 – and I’m not totally done with 1.

December: Ok, stack the firewood, get the door on my future office and move in to the office. Go through the house room by room and begin cleaning out and de-cluttering. Also, do my big annual spice order – I’m out of way too many things. Given that I only have two weeks left in the month, that’s probably as much as I can accomplish.

Household Economy

November/December: We’ve been tracking expenses, but November was an atypical month, with some big projects, so I want to continue this through December, and see how much we can cut (we’re probably the only people on the planet who spend *less* in December than the rest of the year ;-) ). I have a budget set, but I have some ideas that I could cut even further, but I want to watch how this actually works for a month or two.

Resource Consumption

November: We have continued to cut our electrical usage back as intended, although our gas mileage went up because of a long planned annual visit to my Moms. We used wood extremely conservatively and have turned on the furnace only when we were away (just enough to keep the pipes from freezing) and when we had guests sleeping in the cold bedrooms. Generally, despite the early December cold spell, we’re further ahead than we usually are at this season in heating fuel.

December: Time to compensate for that trip and all the fall travel by staying home and enjoying the winter peaceful season. I expect electrical use to decline as well, as I try to stick to my new work schedule, writing only three days a week.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence:

November: This one was a total failure. I got none of my November goals done – I started the farm year plan, but failed to get my seeds for stratification in, started but didn’t finish my tax research (the boring ones are tougher ;-) ), and didn’t find out about my kitchen certification either. Bad, bad blogiste!

December: Exactly the same list as last month, plus some other business details. Blah. This is my punishment for not doing stuff ;-) . I also need to make up the farm and garden calendar, which at least is kind of fun, and order bottles for product sales. On the fun end, we also need to order our seeds, fruit trees and beekeeping equipment. Woot!

Family and Community

November: We committed to trying to do two outside events every month and work generally on strengthening community ties. We actually did this, but most of it was due to the many, many guests who visited and to previously planned events. Now I’ve actually got to do it purposefully.

December: I’m planning two fun things for the next month – first, a neighborhood open-house for New Years, and second, a winter apprentice weekend. Last year, we had 10 people come to my house for a weekend of goat milking, talking, eating, knitting, and learning about everything from woodstove cooking and maintenence to herb gardening and plant uses. I’m plotting another weekend for mid-January – I’ll announce it this week. I really love being able to meet internet folks in person!

Also on my agenda in the “family” department, Eric and I have been talking for years about the possibility of adopting more children through social services, and we’ve decided to go forward at least as far as the class and possibly the homestudy (on the theory that my house might never be clean enough to pass a homestudy again ;-) ) over the next few months. Scheduling the time commitment and childcare will be challenging, but we want to do this. I’m not sure what the longer term outcome will be, but both of us are thinking that our family might not be complete.

Outside Work:

November: I failed miserably at reducing my work schedule – but I’m ready to start again.

December: Trying that three day per week thing again. Must. Make. Workload. Fit.

Time and Happiness:

I didn’t really set goals for this in the past month, just assumed they would be a natural outcome of getting things under control. They are, I suspect, but I’d also like to make more time for music at home. So more regular music practice and singing time with the kids and husband is on my weekly agenda.

Ok, so how did you do?


11 Responses to “Anyway Project – Update 1”

  1. Kevin says:

    I got some of last month’s goals finished, and some progress made.

    Domestic Infrastructure – Partial re-siding work on the N and E walls, then it got too cold. To be continued…
    New weatherstripping and thresholds on exterior doors – nope, maybe will get to that soon.
    Replace plastic film on the windows as needed – done.
    Rebuilding pantry – some progress.
    Something I didn’t have on the list that did get done, was installing the new kitchen faucet and removing the old dishwasher. Our little under-counter-size freezer will go in the hole later today when I’ve replaced the electrical outlet.
    Happening tomorrow – roofers coming back to improve the ventilation in the new metal roof they put on in August. We discovered icicles inside the attic during the first cold snap of the year :(
    To do next: Pantry, and a range vent hood.

    Household Economy:
    Follow up loose ends in transferring to a joint account – DONE
    Rearranging my partner’s retirement savings – progress made.
    Backward step – my partner got laid off as of Jan 4th, and we won’t know till the end of Jan if he’ll get any of the other positions at the same co that he applied for.
    I sold a bunch of stuff on eBay that brought in a nice chunk of cash, will do more of that in Jan.

    Resource Consumption:
    Vehicle replacement – found another minivan with pretty much the same gas mileage but in much better shape (not burning oil, no holes in the exhaust manifold) – so some small improvement there.
    Continue to reduce our electrical usage – hard to tell till we get the bill in. I had to replace my computer and the new one uses much less power, so that should help.
    Work on reducing the amount of plastic that comes into the house – made more cookies this month and bought fewer, which means less packaging!

    Cottage Industry and Subsistence:
    Start growing windowsill sprouts again – YES
    Eat our stored potatoes and other veg often – YES, doing pretty well with this. Taken roasted potato chunks to several potlucks :)
    Finish the quilt I’m making. – no progress here.

    Family and Community: Didn’t do anything I had planned – time was taken up with roof, vehicle, layoff and some health issues. Did help out neighbors with their chickens several times though. Holiday potlucks are ongoing.

    Outside Work:
    Transition initiative – no events this month (phew!), will be leading a strategic planning session in Jan when I hope to plan ways to broaden our reach and our base in ways which take some of the load off me.
    Seedy Saturday organizing committee – I’m behind on this and need to catch up.
    Websites for Farmers Institute and Agricultural Association – progress made on both.

    Time and Happiness:
    Help my daughter move out of our basement into her own place – financial backing in place, plans begun.
    Arrange more music for our Early Music group – no, but we’re taking a break till Jan, so I hope to do some arranging this month.

  2. Claire says:

    All I committed to doing in November was thinking about what my/our overall goals for the Project are and finishing up on some other commitments that I’d already made. By now the other commitments are done and I scratched out some goals after talking with the DH a bit about it.

    December is largely to be a catch-up and holiday month. Here’s what I’d like to get accomplished.

    Overall: by the end of the month I want to have a more-polished version of the overall plan and the 2011 goals.

    Infrastructure: continue decluttering my email inboxes; clean one room each day (sweep floor, dust, maybe mop floor). There are 6 rooms plus one bathroom at our house so each gets cleaned once a week, *if* I stick to the goal.

    Household economy: go over November spending with the DH.

    Resource consumption: make effort to use the solar oven on sunny days.

    Cottage industry: look for recipes to cook wheat berries for breakfast (would save effort over grinding them for flour and making bread). Grind flour corn I grew for cornmeal use. Stratify one flat’s worth of seeds. Figure out yield from this year’s crops and start planning next year’s garden and figuring out what seeds to order.

    Family/community: no particular goals for December.

    Outside work: continue musing on what I might do if I needed to get a paying job.

    Spiritual (my phrasing for time/happiness): continue doing 20-30 minutes of Zen meditation every day.

  3. Sue says:

    Feel like I am paddling against the tide – lots of rain and wind here so not where I want to be on outside projects.

    Domestic Infrastructure – have decluttered bedrooms and started on the sheds. New arrangement for chores is working – with teenage grumblings, but the load is off me a bit.

    Household Economy – much improved since my ex has actually paid some child support. We are eating a lot less red meat than we used to. Fried rice is a favourite staple at the moment – mostly veg and herb from the garden with some chopped eggs, 1 rasher of bacon and we are well fed for about $1 each.

    Resource Consumption – Turning off the hot water heater for three days, then turning it on for one night is my current experiment to see if it uses more or less power for the quarter. Trying very hard to not drive anywhere on non work days.

    Family/Community – Family is doing all homemade gifts this year – requests taken, so practical and cheap.

    Cottage Industry and self Sufficiency – Early summer here, so market season is full on (when not rained out). The garden is full of unsold seedlings of many veg/herbs and I have planted out 15 more food trees (3 truffle oaks, 2 olive, 1 persimmon, 2 elderberry, 1 mulberry, 1 quince, 1 avellano, 1 loquat, 2 carob, 1 cherry) and a dozen more berries (raspberries, mulberries, youngberries, jostaberries, gooseberries, loganberries, thornless blackberry) also arrowroot, kiwi fruit, another grape, cherry guava and chilliean guava. I also have an old horse on paid agistment who is also providing me with 19 shovel fulls of wonderful compost material each day.

    Outside Work – Competing against school leavers at the moment for casual work off the farm.

    Time/Happinss – Taking an afternoon off each week to meet with friends and cruise the 2nd hand shops for bargains.

  4. msbetterhome says:

    I have posted my progress, and goals for the rest of the month on my blog. I didn’t get everything done on the list, but we (as a household) have accomplished some other goals ahead of schedual, including replacing the rusted gutters (which means we can order our rainwater tank); getting our solar panels installed; setting up the dog-proof compost bin and acquiring a puppy.

    Said puppy has disrupted our unpacking considerably, but we are delighted to have her with us.

  5. Beverly says:

    Ummmm. When I allow too many things to divide my time and energy I flop at everything. Also I’m usually avoiding something that I don’t want to see. The worst part is losing my fire and focus. Focus is that edge that gets me into hot water sometimes and drives people who know me nuts. It’s the drive to make intelligent (hopefully!) decisions and speak my mind as well as stand my ground on issues that we should all address. The dismal state of our economy and the hardships many face are uppermost in my mind. These new priorities are very useful tools for many.

    November and December are not the best months to really get a grip on new order of organizational skills. The chaos of the holidays, the visiting, the cooking and decorating defy even the most dollar frugal person. The very unpredictable weather at 6600 ft sees sun shining in warmly through the window that looks out over some 3 ft. of snow which is melting rapidly. The furnace is not needed until night. Then the next snowstorm moves in and it may bring another foot of snow and clouds for the next week. I have to ask myself is this location favorable in case of major social or economic disruptions? What can we do, that we can afford, to be able to be more self sufficient? I’m 67 and my wiry 78 year old husband and I are getting a bit tired. A major earthquake is a fairly good possibility here and we’ve got that one covered for at least a month of independent existence, but if it happened in the winter it would be miserable. Living in a snow machine suit or the trusty Carhartt’s holds little appeal but it certainly beats the alternatives.

    So, just to not be dismal I started a box of lettuce in my car. On nice days I leave the car in the driveway. I don’t like tinted windows in my cars so the light seems to suit the lettuce just fine, so far. The low e windows in most homes don’t do much for plants. Lettuce can take alot of cold, but not alot of wind. With the days still getting shorter germination and growth are rather slow, but the percentage of germination is excellent. I used a clear plastic bakery container with a deep bottom so I can snip leaves as needed and hope to have regrowth. Next will be watercress. I’m sure the containers on the sunny dashboard at the grocery store will be eccentric enough!

    OOOH! I just remembered! My husbands pickup is yet another candidate. He won’t mind a box or two will he?

  6. Java Jane says:

    You all are so far ahead of me but perhaps I can offer a bit of perspective for other novices.

    Domestic infrastructure: Need to transition former homeschool storage space to sewing space. My son is now in college so I really can shed the accumulation of books and materials collected through the years. This is slow going for me.

    Household economy: Obviously we have a large new expense (but not unanticipated): my son’s college education. Our mutual goal is for The Boy to graduate without debt. This will require some economizing on the homefront. Our son is by nature parsimonious so his outside expenses are minimal to nonexistent. We enter into this phase living a relatively simple life, but I see room for improvement by doing more food preservation which will in turn reduce transportation costs. I live a distance from farms, a food co-op and grocery stores. The warm autumn provided an unexpected bounty from my local farmer. As a result, I am roasting and freezing peppers. (Unbelievable for December!)

    Resource Consumption: Started hanging all laundry outside until the recent cold, wet spell. Keep reducing plastics coming into the home. I did replace some plastic containers with new glass ones with BPA free lids. This was a case where a new resource seemed like a wise consumption decision.

    Cottage Industry and Subsistence: How delightful to pull out jars of strawberry and blueberry jams (made from berries we picked) to give during this holiday season! We are also giving jars of brandied heirloom pears which we made from pears that were gifted to us after a storm blew them off the trees. I have sewn and knitted a number of gifts (buying fabric and yarn when I can from thrift shops run by charities) and am thinking about making some bike bags to sell in a marketplace.

    Family and Community: Our community includes that of the birds. We volunteer with a local bird rehabber. Also, I conduct regular cooking and sewing classes for 4-H. During a recent community demonstration, I helped kids roll out cookies. It was shocking to me that so many children had never used cookie cutters before! I am also working on the development of an arboretum in my community.

    Outside Work: My husband has a paycheck; I say that I do not work for pay. But the economic effect of our lifestyle is apparent: our food is prepared from scratch, my husband’s life outside of work is saner, etc.

    Time and happiness: This ties in with our decision regarding my work without pay. We are excited to have our son home from college for a month during which I will continue to work with him on his cooking skills so that he can spread some self sufficiency ideas within his dorm. Instead of buying a Christmas tree this year, we are cutting a small cedar from our wooded lot. It will be a “Charlie Brown” tree and I suspect the best one we have ever had.

    Happy New Year to all!

  7. Karin says:

    Here is my update. This is a really timely project for us. It sure is easy to just let life happen sometimes and find a few (in our case some times quite a few) projects are not completed. Thankyou1

  8. NM says:

    Domestic infrastructure — A very little bit of decluttering; not much. A bit of cleaning, helped decrease stress. Husband built me a gorgeous new Shaker-style cabinet for Christmas, and, on being presented with it early, I was able to get all the overflow canned goods off the kitchen floor and into the cupboard, (and labeled), which was great.
    Household economy — Being mindful of making do instead of buying new, although gift-buying is wreaking some havoc on the budget. This morning saw me spend nearly $200 on tests to find out if one of the dogs has cancer, which also blew a giant hole in the budget, not to mention making me sad.
    Resource consumption — speaking of buying new … bought a new freezer. At 7 cubic feet, it’s half the size of our very old one, and rated efficient by Consumer Reports. But I have not yet succeeded in transferring the food into it.
    Family/community — Informed them I wasn’t going to do insane baking schedule this year, because it’s too stressful. Found an alternate dessert to make instead. Need to test it ahead of time. Very nice support from family.
    Cottage industry/self-sufficiency. Have looked at more property, worked on plan. Need to work on more. The last week or so, have been avoiding it.
    Outside work — keep doing it. Try to cultivate a good attitude about it.
    Time/happiness. Did some sewing, which was soothing.

  9. MEA says:

    After a long slog (since August) with various acute and on-going medical crises for various family members, I’m moving out of “just keep going” mode and trying to get back to the “anyway” and prepepping way of life.

    Domestic Infrastructure (sounds so grand): The cold weather forced me into winter mode: have hung the various curtain supplements (old quilts, towel, and bits of heavy fabric over most of the windows.

    Goal: Replace the almost falling off curtain rods with the much stronger ones that will hold the curtains some as yet to devised supplements over the two windows in the living room. Get the insulated box-thingy over the whole house fan in the attic.

    Household comedy: Well, I got the boxes summer clothes off my bed (I’d been sleeping curled up like a hedge-pig)– now I just need to get the mounds of winter clothing off our bedroom floor.
    Goal: Get ever piece of still useful but not need by us (or needed in the foreseeable future out of the house and where it is needed by the New Year, included some 30 boxes marked “Clothes, Misc.” from the attic.

    Reduce conserve: hmmmmm
    Goal: see above.
    Cottage Industry: nil
    Goal: put the garden to bed. Get the fabric out of friend’s storage space and into newly vacated attic.
    Outside work: Ordered the odd vaguely prepping type book for the library
    Goal: keep pushing conservation in the guise of cost saving.
    Time and Happiness: Enjoying the illusion that after the New Year, I will have more time
    Goal: Continue to be grateful that things are going as well as they are for us.

    Not exactly part of the exercise, but I have started earlier this month a scheme where anything I buy for myself or family (not including ordinary food, medical care, insurance, taxes (which buy some services that we benefit from), I will buy or give an equivalent amount to those who need it more. So far, it’s meant one small check to the soup kitchen (brought a stock of nice tea and some fair trade cocoa for my mum), and the fun of taking a total of 7 (instead of the usual 1 tag from one tree) tags from two different wishing trees, as I brought dd the younger (who put one 10 kilos once her thyroid failed) a new coat, 2 pairs of trousers, and undergarments once she started back to school as well as the usual books and music and replenish of school supplies for her and dd the elder, not the mention that face that we went to see Harry Potter and will also see Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I’ve also stopped using the “free”Rx service through in insurance and have started making a co-pay at a local family owned pharmacy in the belief that I’m keeping money local. It may be a case of dream on.

  10. Ali says:

    Well its been sort of a good/bad month. Some things accomplished, some not. Had some unexpected family medical issues and then have been hit with snow and extremely cold temps so we have had to adjust our daily routines with the animals etc which has taken up more time than usual. Trying to be a bit more realistic on what I want to accomplish in December with the busy holiday season, etc.

    Domestic: Still need to set up new filing system for the new year. Did manage to clean up all the old filing (Yeah). Started a new charity bag and actually got the good cleaning done of the storage/pantry/basement area. It seems that the domestic is the easiest category for me.

    Household economy: Carry over for December, need to work on new budget for 2011.

    Resource consumption: Did complete the insulating panels for the sliding doors, just in time for this cold snap, working great so far. Also completed an insulated spa cover that hopefully will help save some $$$. Goal for December is to reduce electric consumption, phantom loads, etc. Place draft dodgers and plastic on windows as needed. (I know I’m a bit late on this one)

    Cottage industry: Sold a few rabbits, still selling some extra eggs although not many. Hens not producing as well with the shorter days. Did not get any research done on chicken/rabbit feed alternatives and will try to accomplish that this month. Need to track expenses more concerning farm/animals, etc.

    Family/Community: Spoke with a neighbor concerning economy and current affairs, etc. We are on the same page on many issues and solutions.

    Outside work: Still having issues with trying to make time to get my work accomplished. Have made some minor schedule adjustments on a trial basis, seems to be working out a bit better. Continue to work on this goal for December.

    Time/Happiness: Still searching for the illusive 30 minutes of time for myself. Have managed to allot more time to share with DH. Exercising 3 times a week most of the time on a regular basis now, will try extra-hard to continue this through the Christmas/New Years season.

    I’m ready for 2011.. trying to keep positive about the new year.

  11. Evey says:

    Interesting how different the comments are here than at Science Blogs.

    This is a good excercise for sure. We have never kept a real track of our spending before (we are both lifelong conservative spenders) but now we have less than half our previous income so we really be careful.

    December The Theory of Anyway Project

    - Domestic Infrastructure
    • December- Continue cleaning and brightening living spaces in preparation for winter.
    - Household Economy
    Have started budget by writing down expenses and income going back to September, at least according to checkbook record. Cashed out annuity and put most in a money market.
    • December- We both should have some income for the next few months, so budget will be more “real” and less dependent on large one time cash outs and such. We will track all expenses and income carefully and try to start building MM savings.
    - Resource Consumption
    First, winterizing the house and shop.
    • December- Do more than fair share of wood hauling and stove maintence. Plastic film on windows and attic access TODAY
    - Farm and Subsistence
    Wisely using the garden and other food stores efficiently
    • December- Check on bees and finalize winterizing (actually DONE Nov 30 because it is above 50º). Get greenhouse plastic on hoops and secured DONE. CHECK COLD CELLER REGURALLY – keep it up. It was 32º last evening so we had to put a heater in there for an hour- all our glass canned food is in there. Extremely cold here early!
    Butchered a deer shot on the farm- 30lbs of great tasting venison in freezer- 3 jars of canned venison for trial
    - Family and Community
    • December- continue, or start, Nov weekly contacts- add J S. Initiate Sat movie night with farm family. Continue getting together with neighbors for work and meals-extra important in winter
    - Outside Work
    •School year- only accept sub positions that I feel confident I can do a good job at,
    • December- have lunches prepared at night for early morning departures – mentally prepare for possible full-time teaching position starting next month
    - Time, Health, and Happiness
    • November- walk ½ hour during prep time if teaching, walk road ½ hour days home, cuddle more
    • December- Actually do Nov goal. Quit eating peanut butter. Don’t feel guilty about no substitute work/income on “snowdays”

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